My first exposure to Kin was when a friend invited me to a membership night. Before I agreed to go, I asked why he had joined the club. His answer really surprised me. I guess I was expecting him to say something like “I wanted to give back to my community” or “I had a friend in the club”. Both are great answers that I know many Kin can relate to, myself included. My friend, however, was different. He told me he wanted to join a service organization to become a better person. While it was clear that Kin was having a positive impact on my friend, I never could have imagined how much Kin would change my life.
I’ve now been in Kin for 10 years as a member of the Flin Flon Kinsmen Club. I’ve served in many different capacities that have allowed me to develop both personally and professionally. So far, my favourite appointment at the club level has been the role of Membership Director. This year is my third time in the position and I’ve learned a thing or two I’d like to share with fellow Kin about retaining new and longer-term members.
One of the hardest things for a club to do is to engage their new members. It turns out though that improving in this area can actually make all the difference in growing your club. There was a study done among service clubs that showed if you can keep a member for 3 years, there’s a good chance they are going to be a member for life. That same study showed that service clubs typically lose a lot of members within the first two years.
To save face and protect others’ feelings, members who are leaving will often tell you that they left because their personal life just got too busy. But we are all busy, right? In reality, people leave because they didn’t feel engaged, appreciated, or like they weren’t making the impact they’d set out to. They ended up feeling underutilized and bored so they decided their limited free time could be spent doing other things.
In my experience, it’s essential to help your new members feel involved early on and keep your longer-term members feeling engaged. Here’s a list of things that can help improve your club’s member retention:
Run fun and efficient meetings
Your members are all paying volunteers and they could easily choose to give their knowledge, skills, and experience to another initiative or be spending time with their family and friends. Many people are also balancing professional and personal lives on top of Kin so it’s important to ensure that your meetings fun, efficient, and productive.
Set an agenda in advance and give everyone the opportunity to add items for discussion before the meeting. Follow the agenda, keep meetings within one hour, and be courteous of your members' time to reduce their frustration and possible conflicts with their other commitments. Find ways to make the meeting fun and enjoyable instead of always all about business.
When you reflect on your own meetings, are they fun, structured, productive, and wrapping up when expected? Or are they disorganized, running too long, or riddled with conflict among members? If so, it could be time to make some adjustments.
Make time for fellowship
For many members, meetings are an opportunity to connect with friends, work on things they are passionate about, have some laughs, feel supported by their fellow Kin, and forget about the other pressures of life for a while. Does your club make time for fellowship before or after your meetings? It could be a potluck dinner or as simple as making time to sit and chat over a drink and snacks without an agenda. You can also find ways to increase the fellowship outside of meeting days. Invite your fellow Kin and their families over for a BBQ or a swim in your pool. Plan a fun activity unrelated to Kin to build relationships and have some fun. Opportunities for genuine human connection can make a big difference in your retention rates.
Create a collective identity
Does your club have t-shirts or other merchandise that makes your club look united? If not, consider ordering some through Kin Sales. Putting on a Kin shirt, hat, or sweater brings a great sense of pride to members and it can help build your collective identity and subconsciously remind you that you’re all on the same team, working toward the same goals. It is also important to create a feeling within your club that being a member is a prestigious thing and that your club is the premier club in your community. Make it a universal philosophy.
Promote active participation
Planning your club projects and how you will allocate your funds should be a collective effort every meeting, regardless of the seniority dynamic of your club. All members should be treated equally and be given the respect to have their ideas heard and discussed. If you notice someone is quiet, ask them directly if they have any thoughts. Some personality types will not jump in to share and they appreciate an invitation to share ideas. They could be keeping a really great idea to themselves or not expressing something they disagree with. Be in tune with your fellow Kin and ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate.
Learn what your members are passionate about
Every member of your club can be a strong leader regardless of their position or how long they’ve been a member. Take some time to get to know what your fellow Kin are good at. What skills do they bring? What kind of projects were they hoping to work on? What local causes do they think could really use the support of the club? Set time aside to provide a survey for each member to complete or do a round-table discussion to find out what matters most to your members. Find ways to engage members in the areas they are passionate about or provide opportunities for them to try something new.
Create an environment where mentorship can flourish. More seasoned members have many years of personal, professional, and knowledge that newer or younger members can benefit from. Take the initiative yourself to take someone under your wing and help them accomplish their goals. Encourage a broader self-interest. Inspire others to lift themselves up and expand their skills. Kin Canada also has a member-only mentorship program that is always accepting applications mentors and mentees.
Acknowledge individual members
Clubs, zones, districts, and national all have awards programs where you can nominate individuals for their outstanding contributions. Take advantage of these. Most members, myself included, will tell you that they aren’t a member of Kin for the recognition, but I can tell you that it does feel really good when your hard work is noticed.
Outside of formal awards, find small ways to make your members feel valued. Form a committee that recognizes birthdays or acknowledges your members’ life events and accomplishments (like new jobs, the birth of a child, a new grandbaby, a wedding or anniversary, etc.). Name a “Kin of the Month” and share how that member has made an impact in their community on your club’s social media pages or website.
Be sure to also acknowledge when a member is going through a hard time. Make sure no one ever feels alone following the loss of a loved one or throughout a personal struggle/crisis. Find ways to be compassionate and supportive as a club when a fellow Kin needs it the most. Your genuine support could be the difference between a member staying or leaving. During particularly stressful times for your members, make sure your club is an important support network rather than something that feels like an additional burden they just can’t handle right now.
Expose new members to all the benefits
As the study I mentioned earlier noted, it’s important to engage members in the first three years. Be sure to encourage them to take advantage of everything Kin has to offer. Let them take on a task or club position they will find meaningful. Invite them to social events. Make sure they know about the benefits of membership like free online learning through Kin U and all the opportunities to take on different positions at various levels of the association. Host a New Member Orientation session or show them how to access the online Kin U orientation. Most importantly, introduce them to the incredible community of Kin. Make sure they know about upcoming club interclub meetings, and zone/district/national conventions and ensure they feel welcome while they’re there.
Kin Canada’s national Maple Leaf Award of Distinction is a great way to help new members gain exposure to a lot of different aspects of Kin in their first few years. All new members get a booklet for this award in their new member packages; encourage them to look through the package and to start checking things off the list for the award.
Make zone, district, and national conventions a club affair
Many members, even seasoned ones, don’t yet know the value of attending conventions. Encourage as many of your club members to attend so first-timers feel more comfortable going. Once they’re there, they’ll meet the vast network of amazing Kin from all across the country, see Kin from a whole new perspective, and be able to take advantage of learning opportunities.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve met hundreds of people from across the country, and some of my best friends are Kin from elsewhere in the district. One of my favourite moments in Kin was at 2017 National Convention when we crammed all of District 2 onto a bed in a hotel room in Halifax for a group photo. I couldn’t believe how many of us were there, in Halifax, on our own dime. We didn’t travel all that way because we were excited about the business that was going to be taken care of during the day. We came for the friends that we have made in our district and all across Canada who we don’t get to see often enough.
Purge your roster when necessary
This tip is something that no one wants to talk about because it’s a tricky one. However, it only takes one person to poison the well for everyone else. Do you have someone who consistently creates conflict, makes Kin Canada look bad online or in public, puts down others, is not a team player, or who no longer aligns with the values of your club or the association?
If you have members who make others not want to join or stay in your club, that’s a good indicator that you’re going to struggle with retention and recruitment. If this sounds like someone you know, it could be time to have an honest conversation with them about how their behaviour is impacting others. If they are unwilling to change for the benefit of their fellow Kin and the longevity of the club, it could be time to question if they are hurting more than they help. Membership in your club is a privilege and clubs can vote to remove toxic members when it’s deemed necessary.
It’s essential to continually evaluate the health of your club and ensure that you have an environment that both new and seasoned members want to stay in. The Club Health Assessment is a great tool to get the conversation started.
Reach out for help
District Club Support Directors and Deputy Governors are there to help if your club is struggling with retention and you need some guidance. Don’t wait until you’re at risk of folding to reach out.
Use the Club Health Assessment as a regular checkup with your members on how they feel things are going with the club. It’s easier to fix potential issues that may be affecting your member retention when you’re aware of them.
There are many other resources on iKin (under Club Support) as well such as how to chair a meeting, ideas for fellowship, club/zone/district job descriptions, and information about awards.
In order to fulfil our mission of Serving the Community’s Greatest Need, we need to have healthy clubs and an engaged membership. Without our members, our communities would suffer and our association would cease to exist. I hope these tips have helped you think about the current environment of your own club and given you some ideas on how to keep your members feeling engaged, unified, valued, and invested in your club and our association for years to come.
About the Author
Tim Babcock has been a member of the Flin Flon Kinsmen for 10 years and counting. Tim feels getting involved in his club early on was important to feeling engaged within his first few years as a member. He started off in the most important position - Bar Chair! From there he became Membership Director and, after that, he joined the District Council as a Deputy Governor. He absorbed as much as he could, as fast as he could, and last year he served as Governor of District 2.